If you’ve eaten at a fine dining restaurant at any point, chances are you’ve already encountered some variety of microgreens. Microgreens are the young plants, or seedlings, of edible herbs and vegetables.
Nowadays, you can find microgreen versions of a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, dill, fennel, spinach, and radish, among many others; but today, we’re going to be taking a look at basil microgreens and how to grow them.
The basil plant is an herb native to the South Pacific and southern Asia. Basil is an annual plant related to mint and is a common food ingredient in a variety of cultures worldwide.
Basil microgreens are loaded with flavor and nutrients, and best of all, they’re pretty easy to grow.
In this article, we’ll be going over some of the methods you can use to grow your own basil microgreens, and we’ll also go into more detail about the benefits you can get from incorporating basil microgreens into your diet.
Let’s get started!
Equipment Needed to Grow Basil Microgreens
Luckily, growing your own basil microgreens is pretty easy; it doesn’t take much time, and you don’t need a ton of specialized equipment in order to do so.
Here’s the complete list of everything you’ll need to get to grow your own basil microgreens successfully:
- Any decently sized pot or container (you can use a plant pot, a grow tray or even a plastic food container for this purpose; whatever you happen to have handy)
- Potting soil (ideally, you should use sterilized potting soil, since this will help prevent your basil plants from catching diseases)
- Water (the best type of water for growing plants is usually bottled spring water or rainwater)
- A light source (basil ideally needs 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to grow properly. If you don’t have access to this amount of sunlight for your plants, you can also use a grow light)
- A humidity dome (basil needs to be kept moist while it’s growing; a humidity dome helps prevent excess moisture from escaping your seed container)
- Basil seeds (obviously, you need basil seeds to grow basil, but there are many varieties of basil out there, and some of them are easier to grow than others. If this is your first-time growing basil, then you might want to use lemon basil, opal basil, or Genovese basil, since those types are common to find and easy to grow)
How to Grow Basil Microgreens in Soil?
Growing basil microgreens in the soil is probably the easiest technique for beginners. In this section, we’ll go over all of the steps necessary to grow basil microgreens in soil.
Prepare Your Growing Container
Fill up your growing container with potting soil. Leave about 1” of space between the surface of the soil and the top of the container.
Wet Your Soil
Moisten the soil, but not so much that it becomes muddy.
Distribute Your Seeds
Sprinkle your basil seeds across the surface of the soil.
Cover Your Seeds with More Soil
Loosely cover the basil seeds with a thin layer of soil, no more than ½” thick.
Wet Your Soil Again
Water the top layer of soil until it is saturated with water, and then use your fingers to gently tamp it down.
Allow Your Seeds to Germinate
Place your seed container in a warm, well-lit area. You may also want to cover your container with something for a few days to keep the moisture in.
Tend to Your Seeds
Make sure to water your seeds regularly; basil grows best in warm, moist environments. Once you see basil microgreens appearing, reduce the amount of water you’re giving them. Within a few days, your basil microgreens should be ready for harvesting!
How to Grow Basil Microgreens with a Grow Mat?
Grow mats are an alternative to potting soil that you can use for growing a variety of plants, including microgreens of various types. Grow mats are usually made from wood or hemp fibers, which are then woven together. Grow mats are able to retain water quite well, which makes them ideal for growing basil microgreens.
Let’s go over the process for growing basil microgreens with a grow mat.
Prepare Your Growing Tray
Place your grow mat in a growing tray, with the fiber side facing up.
Distribute Your Seeds
Sprinkle your basil seeds evenly over the surface of the mat.
Water Your Grow Mat
Water your grow mat until it is fully saturated with water; however, be sure not to add so much water that the mat is covered by it.
Cover Your Tray
Cover your growing tray with something for the first few days to keep moisture in and help your seeds germinate; for this, you can use a humidity dome, or another grow tray if you happen to have one.
Give Your Seeds Access to Light
Once your basil seeds have germinated, place them in direct sunlight or under a grow light for 6-8 hours a day.
With a spray bottle, water your seeds one or two times a day to keep them moist.
How to Grow Basil Microgreens in Wood Shavings
First of all, a bit of clarification; you can’t grow basil microgreens in wood shavings alone. Wood shavings are used in combination with regular potting soil as a means of providing the soil with more nutrients, helping the soil retain moisture, and preventing pests and disease from getting at your basil plants.
Growing your basil microgreens with wood shavings is a fairly simple process. Here are the steps you need to take:
Prepare Your Growing Container
Fill your preferred growing container with potting soil, as you usually would.
Plant Your Seeds
Sprinkle your seeds over the surface of the soil.
Add Wood Shavings
Distribute a layer of wood shavings over your seeds. Make sure this layer isn’t too deep or dense, as your seedlings may not be able to grow through it otherwise.
Moisten Your Seeds
Water your seeds, ensuring that your soil and wood shavings are sufficiently moist but not water-logged. Afterward, cover your growing container with something to prevent moisture from escaping.
Give Your Seeds Enough Light
Once they’ve germinated, place your seeds in direct sunlight or under a grow light for 6-8 hours daily.
Keep Your Seeds Moist
Mist your seeds daily with a spray bottle.
How to Grow Basil Microgreens Using Growing Paper?
If you’re unfamiliar with growing paper, this is a special kind of paper that comes with seeds embedded in it. There are many types of vegetable and herb seeds that are compatible with growing paper; basil is one of them.
Growing paper is used by placing it into a pot with soil. As time passes, the paper composts, which helps deliver some extra nutrients to the soil.
Here’s what you need to know about growing basil microgreens with growing paper:
Prepare Your Growing Container
Add potting soil to your growing container of choice. Make sure the soil is firmly in place but not packed down too densely.
Add Your Growing Paper
Place your growing paper in a layer over the surface of the soil. Don’t worry if any of the pieces of paper overlap each other.
Add Another Layer of Soil
Add a thin layer of soil on top of your growing paper; it shouldn’t be more than about 1/8” thick. Tamp this layer of soil down gently.
Water Your Seeds Frequently
After planting your growing paper, add enough water to make the paper and soil fairly damp but not completely waterlogged. Make sure to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate by watering them often.
Reduce Watering After Germination
Once you see microgreens starting to appear, keep them moist but make sure not to overwater them. Keep this up until your microgreens are ready to harvest.
How Can You Speed Up Growth?
In general, basil doesn’t take very long to grow; however, there are certain factors that can cause your basil microgreens to grow more slowly than normal. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your basil doesn’t take ages to grow.
Use the Right Kind of Water
As we’ve already mentioned, bottled spring water and rainwater are the best types of water for growing basil microgreens. This is because these types of water contain some extra nutrients that are beneficial to helping basil grow.
You can use distilled water as well, but since distilled water has been filtered to a great degree, it won’t allow your basil plants to grow quite as quickly.
Never use tap water for watering your basil plants, as tap water contains trace amounts of chlorine and fluoride that can negatively affect your seedlings’ health.
Make Sure Your Basil Gets the Right Amount of Sunlight
While basil plants need a good amount of sunlight in order to develop properly, too much sunlight can be detrimental to their growth. Excessive sunlight can potentially cause your soil to dry out, and dry soil is unsuitable for supporting basil plants’ growth.
On the other hand, if your basil isn’t getting enough sunlight, it can prevent it from growing quickly. Like pretty much all plants, basil gets many of its essential nutrients from direct exposure to sunlight and confining your basil plants to a dark area can rob it of the nutrients it needs to grow.
Always be sure to keep an eye on your basil plants as they’re growing and consider moving your basil plants to somewhere else in your house if you find they’re not growing very well.
Make Sure There’s Enough Air Circulation
Basil plants grow the best when there’s a decent amount of air circulation present. Having enough air movement around your plant helps keep your basil plants free from diseases and pests.
Of course, too much air circulation can desiccate your soil, which, as you already know, is also bad for basil plants. Having the right amount of airflow is essential to helping your basil grow healthy and fast.
Don’t Plant Too Many Seeds Near Each Other
Proper distribution of your basil seeds is another factor that affects the speed at which your plants will grow. By placing too many seeds in close proximity of each other, you’re limiting the amount of nutrients that each seed is able to use for itself. Ensuring that your seeds have some distance between them will help them grow larger in less time.
Consider Planting Your Basil Outside
While growing your basil indoors in a pot or tray can be more convenient, you should consider growing your basil outdoors if you have the means to do so.
There are a few reasons why it’s advantageous to grow basil this way:
- Without the physical limitations of a pot or tray, the roots of your basil plant can grow deeper and gain access to a greater supply of nutrients.
- Planting your basil outside can give it access to the air circulation and sunlight that it needs to grow properly.
- Planting your basil outside gives it easy access to rainwater, which is one of the best types of water for growing basil.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Basil Microgreens?
We’ve touched on this briefly already, but in this section, we’ll be going into greater detail on the benefits you can get from eating basil regularly.
Even though microgreens are obviously smaller than fully-grown plants and contain less dietary fiber, they actually contain a higher concentration of nutrients than mature plants do.
Basil Is Full of Antioxidants
First and foremost, basil is an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are incredibly beneficial for your overall health, as they help prevent your cells from receiving oxidative damage.
Oxidative damage can lead to a variety of health issues. It can cause excessive amounts of cholesterol to accumulate in your bloodstream, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Oxidative damage can also exacerbate the symptoms of other ailments like arthritis and asthma.
Basil Improves Your Blood Flow
Basil is a good source of magnesium, which is beneficial for your blood flow. Having a good blood flow helps keep your organs functioning correctly, and it also helps move white blood cells throughout your body more easily, which improves your immune response.
Basil Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Basil contains a substance called eugenol, which is an anti-inflammatory agent similar to ibuprofen or aspirin. It means that enough basil can potentially help to relieve certain types of pain.
Basil Contains Several Other Essential Vitamins and Nutrients
Basil is an excellent source of many vitamins and nutrients that you need for general health purposes.
Basil contains vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also a source of manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
All of these vitamins and nutrients have a variety of health benefits and having all of them in your regular diet will help keep you in good physical shape.
What Pests/Diseases Can Damage Microgreens & How to Deal with Them
It’s important to keep an eye out for signs of diseases or pest activity in your basil microgreens. Taking care of your basil plants properly can reduce the risk of pests and diseases in the first place.
However, if your basil microgreens do end up being affected by pests or disease, it’s important to know how to deal with them. In this section, we’ll be going over some of the more common issues that affect microgreens and how to treat them properly.
“Damping off” refers to a seedling that appears to be growing normally at first but dies soon after. Damping off is caused by a fungus that grows when conditions are excessively moist.
If your microgreens are damping off, there’s no real way to save them, but you can prevent damping off from occurring in the future by not overwatering or overfertilizing your seeds. Giving your microgreens enough air circulation and distributing your seeds correctly also helps prevent this from happening.
This is another type of fungus that affects microgreens when conditions are too cool and damp for them. To deal with botrytis, remove any visibly affected seedlings, refrain from watering your seedlings as much, and move your seedlings to a warmer area with better air circulation.
If the leaves of your microgreens appear yellowish, this could be a sign that your microgreens are planted too closely together, aren’t getting enough sunlight, or are suffering from a lack of nutrients.
If you notice this happening, you should move your microgreens to a place with more sunlight and better air circulation, and you may also want to consider applying a bit of fertilizer to your seedlings.
This is another type of fungus that can affect microgreens. It somewhat resembles a spiderweb growing over the surface of your basil leaves. Sclerotinia occurs when microgreens are kept in excessively humid conditions with poor air circulation.
You can treat sclerotinia by giving your microgreens better-growing conditions, and you can prevent this fungus from occurring in the first place by not planting your seeds too closely together.
If you’re trying to grow your microgreens outdoors, you might find your seedlings being affected by aphids. Aphids are small insects that may be red, green, black, or yellow in color.
They feed on a variety of plants, and they leave behind a sticky substance that can attract ants. The best way to deal with aphids is to introduce an animal that preys on aphids into your garden; ladybugs are a great example of such an animal.
Another outdoor pest that you may encounter, slugs, are quite destructive for pretty much any plants you happen to have. Slugs are usually active at night and in damp weather.
To get rid of slugs, you may want to patrol your garden during damp evenings and physically remove any slugs you see. You can also construct a variety of traps for slugs.
In this section, we’ll answer some of the more frequently asked questions about basil microgreens and how to grow them properly.
Basil Microgreens vs. Basil Sprouts: Which Is Better?
While the terms “microgreens” and “sprouts” are often used interchangeably, the two terms refer to completely different things. For one, microgreens and sprouts are two different stages of a plant’s growth, and they’re also grown and harvested in different ways.
In terms of nutritional content, microgreens are generally considered to be better than sprouts. They also contain more dietary fiber. However, microgreens can take 2-3 times as long to grow as sprouts do.
How Much Light Do Basil Microgreens Need?
Basil microgreens usually need about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day in order to grow properly. If you have a window in your house or apartment that faces south, this is probably the best place to put your microgreens. If you live in a northerly location with short daylight hours during the winter, you may also want to use a grow light to help your microgreens out.
What’s the Best Temperature for Growing Basil Microgreens?
Basil does best when it’s grown in fairly warm temperatures; 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature range for basil microgreens.
How Long Do Basil Microgreens Take to Grow?
Basil microgreens usually take about a week or two to grow until they are ready to be harvested. However, they can sometimes take up to three weeks, so don’t be discouraged if your microgreens aren’t growing very quickly.
Do Basil Microgreens Regrow After Harvesting?
Basil microgreens can regrow after harvesting as long as you leave enough of the stem behind. However, subsequent crops may take longer to grow back than the original.
How Should I Harvest Basil Microgreens?
Basil microgreens should be harvested when they are about 2” tall. To harvest them, simply use a pair of scissors to cut the microgreens about ½” above the surface of the soil.
How Should I Store Basil Microgreens?
Basil can be stored in a variety of ways, depending on what state it’s in. Fresh basil should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, placed in a plastic bag, and kept in the fridge. You can also chop fresh basil up, mix it with water or cooking stock, and then freeze it.
Dried basil will stay good for up to half a year as long as it’s kept in an airtight container.
Why Are My Basil Microgreens Falling Over?
If your microgreens are limp and unable to keep themselves upright, this is a sign that they’re growing in unfavorable conditions. This could result from a lack of nutrients in the soil, a lack of sunlight, a lack of moisture, or an unsuitable temperature.
Basil Microgreens Flavor & How to Use Them
Basil has a flavor that is sweet, savory, and mildly spicy at the same time. It has hints of black pepper, anise, and mint.
Basil can be used in a large variety of dishes, including sauces, curries, salads, and a variety of meats. However, when using fresh basil, it’s important to add it near the end of the cooking process since too much heat can leech all the flavor out of the basil.
Why Air Movement is Important & How to Prevent Damping Off
As we’ve previously mentioned, damping off is a fungal condition that occurs when your microgreens are too wet and aren’t getting enough air movement.
This is the primary reason why having adequate air movement is important for your microgreens’ health, as it helps prevent issues like this from occurring in the first place.
What Are the Different Types of Basil Microgreen Seeds?
There are actually over 60 different varieties of basil that you could potentially try and grow for yourself.
In the interest of space, however, we’re going to list just 20 of the more common types of basil you’re likely to encounter:
- Genovese basil
- Sweet basil
- Lemon basil
- Lime basil
- Opal basil
- Lettuce leaf basil
- Italian large leaf basil
- Napoletano basil
- Purple ruffles basil
- Holy basil
- Christmas basil
- Summerlong basil
- Greek basil
- Spicy globe basil
- Sweet Thai basil
- Ararat basil
- Cardinal basil
- Cinnamon basil
- Spicy bush basil
- African blue basil
There’s a fair amount you have to keep in mind when trying to grow basil microgreens for yourself. However, growing these microgreens is fairly easy to do on the whole, and the reward is definitely worth the effort.
Basil microgreens are a tasty ingredient that can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. On top of this, they’re filled with all sorts of great vitamins and nutrients.
Additionally, there are multiple techniques you can use to grow your own microgreens, which makes it easier for beginners to get into growing them as a hobby. If you have the means to do so, it’s definitely worth a shot to try and grow your own basil microgreens.
As long as you do your best to follow all of the growing tips, we’ve shared with you today, you should have no problem consistently growing your own healthy batches of basil microgreens!